Monday, January 18, 2010

Transparency in Black and White



At the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow,  I found these laminated pieces of paper at the entrance to galleries, near the visitor comment book.  At first glance, I couldn't imagine what they were--definitely not an object or interpretive label;  definitely not a temporary out-of-order sign--what could they be?



I was fascinated to look closer and discover that it was the Quarterly Feedback Report--a summary of visitor comments for that quarter at the gallery.   There were 152,877 visitors--and 1078 of them left comments.   The comments were categorized:  positive, negative, suggestions, observations and enquiries.   What kinds of comments? They provided us with some samples:  one visitor wants the welcome sign in Gaelic; another appreciates the seating, and six people wrote some variation of "the whole building is going to waste.  I don't like modern art."



And, with the comments, there is also the section "The actions we have taken."  They don't seem like radical change, but if I were a regular visitor, I might be keeping an eye for that welcome label in Gaelic or other changes.

The museum is a part of Glasgow Museums, a division of Culture and Sport in Glasgow--so it's a government-run museum--and perhaps there are staff who groan at the thought of producing this report every quarter.   I can't think of another place I've seen such reporting--although the Indianapolis Museum of Art does it in a much broader way with their on-line dashboard.   When I was working with museums in Ukraine, I was often asked about museum statistics in the US.  Because US museums are primarily non-governmental, with independent boards of directors, public statistical reporting such as this seems less common and harder to come by.

So kudos to Glasgow's city government for museum transparency!

2 comments:

Anne W. Ackerson said...

I think posting evaluation sheets like these is a sign of an institution that wants to be committed to its public and is pretty confident that it can follow through. Let's hope that it's more than lip-service!

In any event, it's a challenge for museums elsewhere to follow suit...and DO IT.

Linda Norris said...

Based on my visits to several Glasgow museums, there seems to be a pretty serious commitment. But the follow through is key....